What's an LCAP?

by Jeff Camp | October 7, 2019 | 5 Comments
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Here's a checklist to help you understand and influence your district's plan

Ed100 is designed to help you understand California's complex education system so you can help make it work well for students.

A new element was added to the system in 2014: the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP). The LCAP has evolved since its debut, but its purpose has remained steady: it is meant to make the system accountable to parents and other community members. Like the song says, each district now must have an LCAP.

But there's a problem. On its own, the LCAP template is thick with legalese and edu-jargon. So... Ed100 to the rescue! Together with the California State PTA, we have created a checklist to cut through the jargon and give you the information you need.

The LCAP Parent Checklist Template

You can use the LCAP Parent Checklist template (in English or Spanish) to frame conversations among people who care about your school. This checklist can help you contribute thoughtfully to your district's discussions surrounding the LCAP process. It links to lessons in Ed100, in English or in Spanish, that can help inform your discussions. At the end of this post you'll find specific instructions about how to use the template.

First, though, here is some background to help you understand why Ed100 exists, how the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) fits in, and how it affects you.

What is "Local Control", anyway?
"Local control" refers to policies that leave education decisions to local communities, schools and school districts, rather than centralizing them in Sacramento. The term is often applied in situations involving money, in contrast with terms like "categorical funds" or "mandates" that require your district to spend funds in specific ways.

What is an "LCAP"?
The "Local Control Accountability Plan" (LCAP, pronounced el-cap) is a report that your school district creates each year and makes available to the public. The State Board of Education specifies the information that must be provided. The detailed LCAP template is organized into eight "priority areas".

Your district's LCAP must include information about how it is serving students of different backgrounds, but particularly those living in poverty, foster youth, and students who are learning English. (The eight priority areas are summarized in Ed100 lesson 7.10)

Why is it required? Who requires it?
Under a policy known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), your district has flexibility to decide how to spend funds it receives from the state, including extra money to invest in the education of English language learners, foster youth and children living in poverty. The LCAP is meant to help your district set priorities based on community input, explain how it's using that state money, and then enable you and your community to locally enforce that this intent is being carried into practice.

Who is the LCAP for? Who is meant to use it?
Want to take a guess? Well, actually, it's supposed to be for you, as a parent leader and community member. If this shocks or disappoints you, sorry about that. The brave theory behind the LCAP is that communities will hold their schools accountable for getting education right, and hold their school district accountable for using the extra money as intended. In order for this accountability system to work, people like you need to understand it, despite its complexity. That's why we created the LCAP Parent Checklist. It summarizes that elements of the LCAP that parents are meant to provide input about.

Somebody in your school’s parent community needs to be the one to drive a conversation about the LCAP. It’s you, right? Be honest.

When is a district's LCAP supposed to be completed?
Your district is required to adopt its LCAP as part of its annual budget process, which must be done by the end of June each year in anticipation of the new school year. The planning that goes into it, however, usually begins in a friendly enough way in the fall... and sometimes becomes uglier as the year progresses.

Who actually writes the LCAP document?
In most places, the LCAP document is officially written by one or more school district staff members, on behalf of the administrative leadership. Sometimes school districts get help from consultants, or from the staff of their county office of education. Districts usually will put together a schedule for the process that includes when they will be consulting with the public and what official parent and staff advisory groups they will convene.

Who is responsible for approving the LCAP?
Your district's LCAP document will be complete when your school board votes to "adopt" it. If you think something is wrong with your district's plan, this will be your last opportunity for influence each year. Your county office of education is then responsible for reviewing your district's plan and either approving it or suggesting revisions. County offices in turn have their own LCAPs reviewed by the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Do schools have to produce an LCAP?
Not exactly. The LCAP is required for districts, not for schools. However, the LCAP development process is meant to inspire useful conversation and reflection at the school level, too. Who needs to be involved in these conversations? Well, lots of folks. The LCAP requires school districts to describe the process used to consult with Parent Advisory Committees, the English Learner Parent Advisory Committees, parents, students, school personnel, local bargaining units, and the community to inform the development of the LCAP. Schoolsite councils need to understand how their work fits with their district's LCAP, too.

Your district is probably working to figure out how to unify its LCAP development process with two other reports that are already required at the school level: The School Plan for Student Achievement (SPSA), which includes federally-required information and the School Accountability Report Card (SARC), which is more of a California thing. (Yes, SPSA is sometimes called the "sipsa." Or "speeza.") An ongoing search has so far failed to identify a human being who thinks it makes sense for all of these reports to be required separately. The State Board of Education occasionally threatens to propose ways to consolidate them, someday.

Where can I find examples of LCAP documents?
Districts are required to post them online. One excellent source is LCAP Watch, a service of Education Trust-West. If you don't see your district's LCAP there, please upload a copy when you find it! An official collection of LCAP data is available at the State Department of Education.

Do charter schools have to produce an LCAP?
Yes, and the requirements are basically the same as for districts. Technically, an LCAP is required from each "Local Education Agency" (LEA). Charter schools are LEAs.

What about private schools?
Nope. Private schools do not need to create an LCAP.

How to use the LCAP Parent Checklist Template

OK, now that you have the background, time to get to work. Somebody in your school's parent community needs to be the one to drive a conversation about the LCAP. It's you, right? Be honest.

Not to worry - you don't have to do it alone. Below you will find links to set up an online template that you can use to get the conversation started, collect the information you need, and work collaboratively with other parent leaders in your school. The whole thing is set up in Google Docs, so it's easy to share. Here's how:

1. Go to the template page online. (in English or Spanish*) After you open the template, choose "Make a Copy" from the File menu. (Note - you need to be signed in to your Google account to make a copy. If you don't have a Google account, time to get one - it's free.) Rename your copy in a way that reflects your school or district. *Need another language? We'd love to offer the Google Doc template in additional languages without relying on robots; please contact us if you can help us with that!

2. Share your copy of the template with your LCAP team. After you have created your copy of the template, click the blue "Share" button in the upper-right corner of the screen. Enter email addresses to invite people to work together to prepare the document. (Yes, they will need to get a free Google account if they don't have one already.) Use Sharing settings to choose the options you want. For example, you might want some team members to be able to leave comments, but give others the power to edit the document directly. Learn about sharing Google Docs

3. Edit your copy of the template together to contribute to your LCAP By working together, the parents in your school and district can learn what they need to know to provide informed opinion in this local decision making process. Your school principals and district office folk likely will want to know about Ed100 as well, because it can give them a way to provide evidence of parent engagement and education as the parent LCAP team works through the lessons of Ed100.org. Have each of your team members sign in with Ed100 (you can remind them that it's free) and associate themselves with your school. If your team members (or you) want more information about using shared Google Docs, there are many good online tutorials such as this one.

Follow-up Questions

Can you locate your district's most recent LCAP? Did its contents surprise you?

Has your district scheduled events to discuss policies and conditions that are included in the LCAP? Are they on your calendar?

Create a copy of the Ed100 LCAP checklist to share with other parent leaders. Do you have advice for other parent leaders who do the same?

Updated September 2017, October 2019.

Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Marina Ramos1 July 9, 2020 at 1:44 am
Great information towns of knowledge to share with parents.
Thank you.
user avatar
Kelley Mccarty October 20, 2019 at 2:38 am
The template is great. The different resources really help.
user avatar
Iris December 1, 2017 at 7:21 pm
We shared this LCAP Checklist with our San Ramon Valley PTA Council Legislative Advocacy reps. Thanks!
user avatar
Iris November 11, 2017 at 8:44 pm
Attended my first district-level LCAP meeting last week and used the parent checklist to review the Ed100 lessons to prepare for the meeting. The school district leadership was very impressed with the knowledge I showed and want to know more about Ed100. Yay!
user avatar
vpeterson_2001 April 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm
Hope LCAP truly starts to provide equity to those that need it and that they actually use it, because LCAP is currently hurting some school budgets and we are suffering cuts and program reductions!
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